Career center pulls out all the stops to put graduates on good path

With high school graduation just weeks away, Dayton’s Ponitz Career Tech Center went all-out Thursday to try to put its seniors on paths to success.

Military recruiters, motivational speakers, half a dozen colleges and dozens of local employers descended on Ponitz for a second straight year, to show students a variety of options for their futures.

Ponitz Principal Raymond Caruthers said school staff got the idea when they went to college campuses to check on recent graduates.

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“They told us, here are the areas where they wished they had had more information. So we came back and put this plan together,” Caruthers said. “We called community partners tied to the career paths we teach and said, can you send your HR person out? We have some students here who are not going to go to college, but are going to enter the workforce, and they’re prepared to do so. And everybody we asked said yes.”

The entry area at Ponitz was jammed with recruiters from dozens of businesses across several industries. Honda and Voss Auto Network were joined by Select Industries Manufacturing and the Ironworkers Union, while CareSource, Speedway, the Trotwood Fire Department and others explained career options to students.

At the Cincinnati Bell Technology Solutions table, three Dayton Public Schools graduates who work for CBTS were talking to current students, and explaining what education or certifications the kids would need to get a job.

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Teresa Greer, who was representing the Dayton VA Dental Service, talked to several Ponitz students who are already certified as dental assistants, giving them tips on how to get a foot in the door as long-term subs.

“They’re very excited, and that’s fun, because when you work for so long sometimes you forget about that excitement. It’s fun to see their faces light up,” Greer said. “And I assumed they all wanted to be dental assistants, but some of them want to be doctors and oral surgeons, and that’s really cool.”

Steve VanGorder’s team from SVG Motors gave the seniors a motivational presentation, emphasizing that they can be anything they want if they work and plan for it. When VanGorder asked how many of the students really believed that, about half raised their hands.

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Ponitz seniors Darajah Lawrence and Richard Holley expressed confidence that Ponitz had prepared them well. Lawrence said being able to pursue a particular career path in high school helped her understand what she did and didn’t like to do.

“When I was a freshman, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, but when I got into my career path of biotech, I found out what my interests were,” she said. “Now I’m going to be majoring in clinical laboratory science at Wright State.”

Holley will major in marketing and entrepreneurship at Central State, and called networking one of his strengths. He was excited to talk to small business entrepreneurs at Ponitz on Thursday.

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“I can ask them questions about how they built what they did, how their failures helped them, if I’m failing, how can I fight through it?” Holley said. “No matter how old you are, you can learn, and the younger the better.”

School officials encouraged the students to “hit every booth and shake every hand.” Caruthers said Ponitz has a good mix of seniors headed into the workforce, and into two- and four-year colleges.

“A lot of times in a conventional high school, the students can’t see how science or other subjects fit in (with careers), but here, they do it every day,” Caruthers said. “You have to be pretty decent in math to study automotive — converting fractions and knowing liters and measurements. … We think we do a great job at that.”

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